Stuxnet — a Russian worm?


At the National Interest, David Kay, the weapons inspector who determined that Saddam Hussein was not, after all, anywhere near reviving his WMD program, wonders whether Russia is behind Stuxnet, the nuclear-disrupting worm the Iranians have blamed on israel and the United States:

The Russians, at least the Medvedev faction, have shown increasing unease at the prospects of an Iran that would really have nuclear weapons. As long as Iran was seen as the only eager buyer of Russian technology—and a thorn in America’s side, leading it deeper into the quagmire of the Middle East and Central Asia—Iran served a useful geopolitical purpose for Moscow. On the other hand, once Moscow became convinced that Tehran not only was driving for nuclear weapons, but would actually have such weapons at some point, the Islamic Republic began to become a danger to a Russian Federation whose borders have a population dangerously vulnerable to Iran’s influence. This is not to say that Russia welcomed military action by the United States or Israel to halt the nuclear program. Far from it—Iran was still an important market for Russian technology that has few other markets with ready cash. Russia, whether it be Putin or Medvedev, does not welcome U.S. military action on its borders. Also, having milked the Iranian cash cow for over a billion dollars to build the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Russians may well have, and certainly should have, become concerned that Iran’s spotty operational and safety culture, and the temptation that others might have to sabotage this plant as it began operating, could lead to a nuclear accident that would further blacken the reputation of Russian nuclear reactors and close off all hope for further sales of its reactors in the worldwide market.

As regards to opportunity and expertise, the Russians stand at the top of any suspect list. Russian scientists, engineers and technical workers have been all over the Iranian nuclear establishment for years. They well understand the Siemens control systems that seem to have been the target of the Stuxnet worm. These same Siemens systems made their way to the Soviet Union through the NATO technology-control barriers and they have been more legally transferred after the collapse of the Soviets. The Russians at Bushehr had full access to these systems. Russian expertise in cyber attacks is a daily fact of life throughout the world, both in the service of criminal enterprise and espionage. 

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